Unit 5 Class Notes- imperialism and wwi american Expansionism



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Unit 5 Class Notes- Imperialism and WWI
American Expansionism
By the 1880s, many American leaders believed the US should join European imperial nations and establish colonies overseas. The era of U.S. imperialism was beginning.

  • European nations had been establishing colonies for centuries

  • Africa and China were both targets for expansion and trade by European and other Asian countries, such as Japan


Imperialism- the policy in which stronger nations extend their economic, political, and/or military control over weaker territories.
Three Factors Fueled American Imperialism


  1. Desire for military strength- American leaders pushed the government to build up its own military strength

  • ***Admiral Alfred T. Mahan- In his book The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, Mahan expressed his belief that a nation benefited from having a strong navy and the overseas bases needed to maintain it.

      • This navy would protect American business and shipping interests around the world

      • The building of battleships such as the U.S.S. Maine and the U.S.S. Oregon helped propel the U.S. into the world’s third largest naval power

  1. Thirst for new markets- By the late 19th century, American technological and industrial advances enabled farmers and manufacturers to produce more goods than American citizens could purchase.

  • Imperialists looked to foreign trade to seek raw materials for our factories and new customers for our products

    • They hoped to solve problems related to unemployment and economic recessions

  1. Belief in cultural superiority- Americans subscribing to the philosophy of Social Darwinism, believed in the racial superiority of Anglo-Saxon Americans

  • Believed we had a duty to spread Christianity and American culture to the “inferior” people around the globe



The United States Buys Alaska
Secretary of State William Seward was an early proponent of U.S. expansion.

  • 1867: Seward negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2million, approximately 2 cents per acre!

    • Some thought this purchase was a mistake and labeled it “Seward’s Icebox” or “Seward’s Folly”

    • BUT…Alaska contained valuable timber, mineral, and eventually oil resources.


America Takes Hawaii
The Hawaiian Islands had been strategically important to Americans for nearly a century

  • Since the 1790s, American merchants used the islands as a refueling station on their way to China.

  • Beginning in the 1820s, American missionaries started Christian schools and churches on the islands. Their descendants would become sugar planters, selling most of their crop to the United States.

  • In 1887, American military and economic leaders negotiated the rights to build a naval base at Pearl Harbor, which would become a refueling station for American naval ships.


The Season for Annexation- By the mid 1800s, American-owned sugar plantations accounted for ¾ of the islands wealth. Laborers from Japan, China, and Portugal came by the thousands to work the plantations. By 1900, foreigners and immigrant workers outnumbered native-born Hawaiians three-to-one.

  • 1875- The US agreed to import Hawaiian sugar duty-free (tax free)

    • Hawaiian sugar production increased nine times over the next 15 years

  • 1890- The McKinley Tariff removed the duty-free status of Hawaiian sugar, causing the islands sugar growers to compete in the American market

    • American-owned plantation owners cried foul!

    • They called for America to annex the islands, in order for them to avoid paying the tariff duty.

  • 1890- Hawaii’s King Kalakaua was forced by foreign business leaders to amend his nation’s constitution, limiting the voting rights to only wealthy landowners.

  • 1891- the King died, his sister Queen Liliuokalani took the throne

    • She pursued an agenda to remove property qualifications for voting, known as “Hawaii for Hawaiian” in order to ensure native Hawaiians controlled the islands

    • ***The queen’s attempt to reduce the political influence of American sugar planters would prompt the U.S. government to participate in the overthrow of the Hawaiian government

  • 1893- American business groups, encouraged by U.S. Ambassador John L. Stevens, organized a revolt

    • Assisted by the U.S. Marines, they overthrew the queen and set up a government, The Republic of Hawaii, led by Sanford B. Dole

      • Ambassador Stevens informed the State Department, “The Hawaiian pear is now fully ripe, and this is the golden hour for the United States to pluck it.”

    • The new U.S. president, Grover Cleveland, called for Liliuokalani to be reinstated, but Dole refused.

    • Cleveland formally recognized the Republic of Hawaii, but refused to consider annexation unless a majority of Hawaiians favored it…which they didn’t. Of course.

  • 1898- The next U.S. president, William McKinley, favored annexation.

    • Aug. 12, 1898, Congress proclaimed Hawaii an American territory.


Support and Opposition to American Imperialism
William McKinley’s reelection in 1900 confirmed that a majority of Americans favored his policies. During his first term in office, beginning in 1897, support for U.S. imperialism would grow, and America would gain an empire.

  • American sugar growers supported the overthrow of Liliuokalani and the annexation of Hawaii

  • ***U.S. business people who had significant investments in Cuba were supportive of the Spanish-American War, which began in April 1898.

  • ***Newspapers such as William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal sensationalized stories of Spanish atrocities during the Cuban rebellion, and stoked the calls for war following the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine, largely in order to increase circulation of their newspapers…as well as their profits.


But even before McKinley’s reelection, an Anti-Imperialist League, including some of the most prominent people in America, would arise. Notable members of this opposition included:

  • Former president Grover Cleveland

  • Social reformer Jane Addams

  • Industrialist Andrew Carnegie

  • Labor leaders including Samuel Gompers

  • The presidents of Stanford and Harvard universities

  • Leading writers such as Mark Twain

  • ***the Anti-Imperialist League spoke out in opposition to U.S. conquest and possession of oversees territories


Cubans Rebel Against Spain
Spain’s empire, once the largest in the world, had dwindled to include only the Philippines and the island of Guam in the Pacific, a few outposts in Africa, and the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea by the end of the 19th century. It was about to lose most of those as well.
American Interest in Cuba- Americans had kept their eye on Cuba for over 50 years.

  • In the 1850s, diplomats recommended to President Pierce that the U.S. should buy Cuba from Spain. Even president Buchannan attempted to strong-arm the Spanish into selling Cuba. He ultimately had to rescind his Ostend Manifesto.

  • 1868-1878: Americans sympathized with Cubans who rebelled, unsuccessfully, against Cuba in their first war for independence

  • 1886: Though the Cubans failed to gain independence, they did force Spain to abolish slavery.

    • American capitalists then invested millions of dollars in sugar plantations on the Caribbean island.

  • 1895: A second war for Cuban independence erupted, largely due to the influence of Cuban poet Jose Marti

    • Marti organized resistance against Spain, in part by using guerilla warfare and deliberately destroying American-owned sugar plantations in hopes of provoking U.S. intervention to help Cuban rebels gain independence

    • Marti, however, feared that U.S. imperialists would replace the Spanish as imperial possessors of Cuba

    • Many Americans, not just businessmen who had invested in Cuba, sympathized with the Cuban rebels, taking on the cry of “Cuba Libre!” which was similar to Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!”


War Fever Escalates- The Spanish responded to the renewed Cuban revolt by sending Gen. Valeriano Weylar to crush the rebellion. As many as 300,000 Cubans died in barbed-wire enclosed reconcentration camps where they were herded into by “The Butcher” Weyler in order to keep them from helping in the insurrection. Weyler’s brutal actions would also lead to a different kind of war, one fought to increase circulation of American newspapers.
1896-1898: Yellow Journalism and the Headline Wars

  • William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer printed exaggerated and sensationalized headlines about atrocities in Cuba in order to increase circulation of their newspapers

    • Yellow journalism- sensationalized writing that exaggerates the news to lure and enrage readers

    • Hearst sent the artists Frederic Remington to Cuba to draw sketches of the supposed crimes of the Spanish.

      • When Remington reported that a war between the U.S. and Spain seemed unlikely, Hearst responded, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war!”

      • Remington depicted Spanish customs officials brutally disrobing and searching American women. (Americans were not told that the searches were conducted by female attendants)

    • Stories of poisoned wells and children being thrown to sharks, patently false, helped to deepen American sympathies for the Cuban rebels


The DeLome Letter- Another infuriating story, was the publishing of the DeLome Letter in February 1898 by Hearst’s New York Journal.

    • President McKinley, preferring to avoid war, tried diplomatic means to resolve the crisis in Cuba.

    • Spain relented, at least in part, by recalling General Weyler, modifying the policy on concentration camps, and offering Cubans limited self-government.

    • But American anger was stoked when a letter written by Enrique Dupuy DeLome was stolen by a Cuban rebel and leaked to American newspapers, who were eager to create a scandal

      • The DeLome letter criticized President McKinley in unflattering terms

      • DeLome was forced to resign, but the damage was done. Americans were furious!


The U.S.S. Maine Explodes- Only a few days after the publishing of the DeLome letter, American resentment turned to outrage and calls for war!

  • Early in 1898, President McKinley had sent the battleship U.S.S. Maine to Cuba to demonstrates Washington’s concern for the island’s stability, and also help Americans escape should violence escalate.

  • On February 15th, 1898, the Maine exploded in Havana harbor.

    • 260 American sailors were killed

  • Two investigations were immediately undertaken, one by the U.S. naval officers, and another by Spanish officials.

    • The Spanish concluded that the explosion was an accident, and that Spain had played no part in the tragedy.

    • The Americans argued that the explosion was caused by the Spanish in Cuba, presumably by a mine.

  • ***The American yellow press sensationalized the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine, offering a $50,000 reward for the capture of the perpetrator

    • Americans were outraged! Calls to “Remember the Maine!” helped to influence the U.S. government to take action

War with Spain
To avoid American intervention on the side of the Cuban rebels, Spain agreed to two demands of Washington: to end the reconcentration camps and to sign an armistice with Cuban rebels. This was not enough for angry American citizens. President McKinley was in a jam. He did not want all out war with Spain, but he also wanted to see Cuban’s free of Spanish control. On the other hand, McKinley did not want a fully independent Cuba, one in which in the U.S. could not exercise some measure of control. On April 11, 1898, McKinley gave in to popular pressure and urged Congress to authorize armed intervention to free the oppressed Cubans. Following a week of debate, on April 20th Congress obliged, declaring war on Spain and igniting a “Splendid little war!”
War in the Philippines- The first battle of the Spanish-American War did not take place in Cuba. Rather, America launched a surprise attack on another colony of Spain- the Philippines!

  • Commodore George Dewey led the US navy’s attack on the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay, Philippines.

    • ***The underlying motive for attacking the Spanish in the Philippines was to acquire a base to protect American trade interests in the Pacific.

    • The Spanish fleet was destroyed within seven hours

    • This allowed American troops to land.

    • Over the next two months, Americans joined forces with Filipino rebels led Emilio Aguinaldo

    • Spain surrendered in Manilla in August

War in the Caribbean- The battle for Cuba began with a naval blockade around the island, effectively trapping the Spanish fleet in the harbor at Santiago.

  • America’s army was much less prepared for war as compared to our navy

    • The U.S. maintained only a small professional force

    • Much of the U.S. troops were volunteers, approximately 125,000, who were sent to training camps that lacked adequate supplies and effective leaders

      • Shortage of guns

      • Troops were given wool uniforms…to fight in the tropical islands of the Caribbean

      • Many of the officers were old Civil War veterans

  • June 1, 1898: 17,000 U.S. troops landed in Cuba, and began to converge on the port city of Santiago

    • Four regiments of African American soldiers

    • The Rough Riders, a volunteer regiment led by Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt, led the charge up Kettle Hill on July 1st, along with two regiments of African American soldiers.

    • Their victory cleared the war for an infantry attack and capture of strategic San Juan Hill later that same day.

    • July 3rd: the Spanish fleet sailed out of the harbor at Santiago and into the waiting American naval blockage

      • The Spanish fleet was destroyed

    • On July 25, American troops invaded Puerto Rico, where they met with even less resistance than in Cuba

  • August 12, 1898: Spain agreed to a cease-fire, signing an armistice with the United States, ending what Secretary of State John Jay called, “A splendid little war.”

  • Dec. 10, 1898: Spain and the United states met in Paris to agree on a treaty. The Treaty of Paris contained the following provisions:

    • Cuba gained its independence

    • ***The United States acquired the territories of of Guam and Puerto Rico, and paid Spain $20million for the Philippine islands

Debate over the Treaty of Paris- The treaty sparked heated debate in the United States, which centered on whether or not the United States had the right to annex the Philippines, and more importantly, the nature of imperialism itself.

  • President McKinley viewed all his options regarding the Philippines as fraught with trouble

    • If left to govern themselves, he believed the Filipinos might fall into anarchy.

    • If the Philippines were independent, another imperial power such as the Germans or Japanese may try to seize the islands, sucking the U.S. into a major war to protect its interests.

    • McKinley viewed his best choice was to annex all the islands, and perhaps give the Filipinos their independence at a later time

      • ***In deciding the fate of the Philippines, McKinley told a group of Methodist ministers that, “There was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate them, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them.”

        • McKinley failed to take into account that the Philippine economy was among the most modern in Asia, and that most Filipinos were already Christians, converted to Catholicism by the Spanish

  • Opponents of annexation presented political, moral, and ethical arguments against that proposed course of action

    • They argued the treaty violated the Declaration of Independence by denying self-government to the newly acquired territories

    • Civil rights leaders like Booker T. Washington believed the U.S. needed to solve race problems at home before it took on issues of colonial people abroad

    • Labor leaders such as Samuel Gompers feared Filipino immigrants would compete for American jobs

The debate was settled on February 6, 1899 when the Senate voted to approve the treaty. The United States now had an empire!

  • Following the Treaty of Paris, the United States gained the territories of the Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam

  • American troops occupied Cuba following the war, angering many Cubans who feared the U.S. would simply replace the Spanish as imperial rulers.

    • Under American occupation, the same officials who had served Spain remained in office. Cubans protesting this policy were often jailed or exiled

    • However, the American military gov. provided food and clothing for thousands, helped famers recultivate their land, and organized schools. Because of sanitation and medical research, the efforts of the US military government helped eradicate yellow fever.

  • The Cubans created their own constitution, but it did not specify the relationship between Cuba and the United States

    • 1901: The United States insisted that Cuba add to its constitution several provisions, known as the Platt Amendment. The provisions included the following:

      • Cuba could not make treaties that would limit its independence or permit a foreign power to control any part of its territory

      • The United States reserved the right to intervene in Cuba

      • Cuba was not to go into debt that its government could not repay

      • The United States could buy or lease land on the island for naval stations and refueling stations

    • ***Passage of the Platt Amendment resulted in the creation of a U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

    • 1903: The Platt Amendment became part of a treaty between the two nations, and remained in effect for 31 years.



American Imperialist Foreign Policy
From McKinley through the Wilson presidency- The acquisition of an American empire following the Spanish-American War brought forth a fierce debate. Both proponents of American expansion and opponents of imperial rule argued over the new influence that the United States would exert around the globe.
Cuba and the United States- When the U.S. declared war on Spain in April of 1898, Congress also passed the Teller Amendment, which state that the U.S. had no intention of taking over any part of Cuba. Following the war, Cuba would gain independence, but the Cuban people would soon find that their new nation would not be free of American influence.

  • ***The United States exerted political control over Cuba with the insistence of the Platt Amendment in 1901.

  • U.S. troops occupied Cuba until the passage of the Platt Amendment as part of a treaty between the two countries in 1903. An American military presence is still felt on island today at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay.


Ruling Puerto Rico- During the Spanish-American War, U.S. forces occupied the island, promising to protect its people and property, and to promote the prosperity of the island and “bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our government.” Views of Puerto Ricans varied from some wanting statehood in the Union, others wanting a measure of local self-rule, and still others, like Luis Munoz Rivera, who worked for Puerto Rican independence. The Unites States gave the island people no promises regarding independence.

  • Puerto Rico was strategically important to the US

    • For maintaining a military presence in the Caribbean

    • For protecting a future canal that U.S. leaders had been dreaming of building across the isthmus of Panama for decades.

  • The U.S. maintained military gov. in the island until 1900, when Congress passed the Foraker Act

    • Ended military rule

    • Set up a civil government

      • The U.S. president had the power to appoint Puerto Rico’s governor and members of the upper house of its legislature

      • The lower house (House of Representatives) was elected by Puerto Ricans

  • 1901: The Insular Cases- The acquisition of newly annexed American territories brought with them peculiar questions: Did the Constitution follow the flag? Did American laws, including tariff laws and the Bill of Rights, apply in full in the new American possessions? Puerto Ricans petitioned Congress in 1900 with the question “Who are we? Are we citizens or are we subjects?” That question would be answered by a divided Supreme Court in the Insular Cases

    • The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution did not automatically apply to people in acquired territories.

    • Puerto Ricans (and Filipinos) might be subject to American rule, but they did not enjoy all American rights

  • 1917: Congress granted U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans, and gave them the right to elect both houses of their legislature.


Filipinos Rebel- Filipinos assumed that they, like the Cubans, would be granted independence following the Spanish-American War. They reacted with rage when the U.S. excluded them from the peace negotiations with Spain, and then made it clear that Americans had every intention of staying in the Philippines indefinitely. The bitterness felt by Filipinos would ignite an unsuccessful 3-year war, led by Emilio Aguinaldo (who believed the U.S. had promised independence), against American troops. To leaders in the U.S. military and in Washington D.C., the strategic importance of the Philippines to American interests was worth fighting for.

  • ***Acquiring a base to protect U.S. trade interests in the Pacific was a motive that underlay Commodore George Dewey’s attack on the Spanish fleet in Manila harbor, Philippines.

  • ***For President McKinley, increased commercial opportunities for U.S. businesses influenced his decision to maintain U.S. control of the Philippines after the war.

  • Following the outbreak of the Philippine-American war, Aguinaldo turned to the use of guerilla tactics to try and win independence. The military acted in ways reminiscent of the Spanish bully that they went to war with to oust from Cuba.

    • The U.S. built reconcentration camps that rivaled those of the “Butcher” Weyler in Cuba. Poor sanitation, starvation, and disease killed thousands of Filipinos

    • The Philippine-American war lasted until 1901, when Aguinaldo was captured.

    • The war claimed the lives of 4,234 Americans and as many as 600,000 Filipinos

    • The war cost America more than $400,000- 20 times the price they had paid to Spain for the islands.

  • Following the war, future president William H. Taft became civil governor of the Philippines in 1901.

    • He formed a tight attachment to his “Little brown brothers”

    • America poor millions of dollars into the islands

      • Improved roads, sanitation, and public health

      • Made important economic ties, including trade in sugar

      • American teachers set up an education system and helped make English a second language

The Filipinos hated their forced American assimilation, and hoped for freedom…something they would not receive until July 4, 1946.


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